Ransom Old Tom

August 13th, 2009

One of the things I love about travelling (and there are many) is the chance to get hold of rare and exotic ingredients I can’t easily get hold of here in England. Being based in London I’m lucky enough to have access to some great liquor shops, and thanks to the EU purchasing spirits from around Europe is generally a painless process, but some of the goodies my friends from across the pond have access to remain inaccessible behind a curtain of expensive delivery charges, customs and duties.

Top of my list when I headed over to the US for Tales of the Cocktail last month was Ransom Old Tom, a gin produced by Ransom Spirits of Sheridan, Oregon. I first learned of the Old Tom last year through an excellent article by Camper English and was intrigued by the idea of an aged Old Tom. After trying Citadelle Réserve, another aged gin, and hearing great things about Ransom I knew I had to get hold of some. Unfortunately Ransom is currently only available in its home state, Oregon, but thanks to a fellow blogger I left New Orleans with a bottle in stashed my case.

Ransom Old Tom bottle

Ransom Old Tom

44% ABV

At this point I have tried five modern reproductions of Old Tom, many of which claim to use historical recipes, and all of which taste vastly different to one another. They generally fall in to two camps – highly floral spirits like the Dorchester and Both’s Old Tom, or more aromatic, juniper led creations like Jensen’s Old Tom and “Old Tom Style” (for what it’s worth those who have tried old bottles of Old Tom tend to point towards the more floral bottlings as being the most authentic). I’ve also spoken to many people who all give vastly contrasting opinions on the properties of original Old Toms such as sugar levels and botanical mixes.

I’m not sure we’ll ever have a true idea of what Old Tom really was like – and that’s not to say everyone can’t be right and there we Old Toms that reflected each of the styles now available today – but frankly I’ve stopped caring. What I’m looking for is interesting gins that offer something new to the category, and more importantly can make a decent drink. And Ransom Old Tom certainly offers something new.

The gin differs from all other Old Toms currently on the market in that it is made partially using a malted grain mash – essentially the same as that used for whisky – for its first distillation. This is then mixed with a neutral grain distillation that is infused with juniper, orange peel, lemon peel, coriander seed, angelica root and cardamom pods. Closer to Genever than London dry in production style, this difference is taken further by barrel ageing the gin as Old Toms likely would have been in the 19th century – more accidentally than anything – as they were transported across oceans and plains in wooden barrels.

The result is a very decent gin that really is nothing like any other Old Tom around today. The nose is full of juniper, along with a decent dose of cardamom and some floral and honey notes. The spirit is smooth and slightly viscous in the mouth, with a real whack of cardamom overwhelming the senses at first before retreating to allow a pleasant mixture of floral and citrus notes that develops toward the finish, as well as a slightly sweet maltiness that reminds me a little of the Rutte & Zn Paradyswijn.

Despite the heavy cardamom start the overall taste has the same roundness I enjoyed in Citadelle Réserve that I can only assume comes from the barrel ageing. I’m sad to say, purely because getting hold of another bottle will be tough, that I like this gin very much indeed. Of course no Old Tom trial is complete without testing it in a Martinez and as I expected it tastes rather good, the mixture of juniper, spice, floral and citrus notes working wonderfully with the other ingredients to create a Martinez that at least rivals those made with my current favourites – the two Haromex Old Toms (Both’s and “Old Tom Style”).

However I’ve been enjoying Ransom Old Tom even more in a new cocktail I came across thanks to Chuck and Paul

Ephemeral cocktail


View in: oz | ml | shots

The Ephemeral cocktail was created by David Shenaut of Teardrop Lounge, and is one of the best new cocktails I’ve come across for a long time. I normally try to avoid naming spirits unless absolutely necessary, but I really can’t see this working in quite the same way without the Ransom Old Tom and Dolin Blanc, a blanco-style vermouth that is sweeter that dry vermouth.

The flavours of the spirits hang together just perfectly, with the aromatic notes of the Ransom being offset deliciously by its own floral notes and the sweetness from the Dolin and St. Germain. The balance of the ingredients is perfect, each allowed to show through without any one becoming too dominant. What’s more, it’s a great way to use my celery bitters that have been sadly neglected since I got hold of them last year, and they perfectly set off the other ingredients. A wonderful cocktail indeed.

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Posted in Celery Bitters, Gin, Grapefruit, Recipes, St. Germain, Vermouth

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14 responses to “Ransom Old Tom”

  1. JohnTheBastard JohnTheBastard says:

    I just today picked up a mini of St. Germain so I could make this cocktail. In fact, I plan to make two: one with the Bitter Truth bitters, and one with my home made version.

  2. Ted Munat Ted Munat says:

    Thanks for this Jay! This drink will be in Left Coast Libations. Dave gave me the recipe the other night while at Vessel, and I drank too much and lost it! You’ve saved me the embarrassment of having to ask for it again (and I’ve now replaced that embarrassment with the embarrassment of admitting my carelessness publicly…ah well).

    It is a great, great drink.

  3. Sigurd Sippel Sigurd Sippel says:

    A long time ago the last new recipe was published here. I’m very happy because of the new one.

    I don’t know Dolin vermouth. Could I replace it with Noilly Prat Dry?

  4. stephan stephan says:

    Jay, still have some Citadelle Reserve for you.

    Sigurd, Dolin is a different breed than Noilly Prat. The blanc isn`t dry, it is a bianco style vermouth, but very enjoyable.
    Guess you will find something in your country.

    It seems Old Tom makes another step forward. Nice label indeed. Wish i could sample the stuff!

  5. Jay Jay says:

    John – I’ve got a bottle of your bitters somewhere, I will have to dig them out and give them a try.

    Ted – No problem! I have similar problems… why do you think I write so little about drinks from London bars?!

    Sigurd – As Stephan says Dolin is a blanc vermouth, which is sweeter. Martini Bianco could be used at a push, but I’d use Dolin if at all possible. You can purchase it at Drinkology if you can’t buy it locally.

    Stephan – I’ll try to remember to bring a hip flask with some in, Duff style, for you to try at BCB…

  6. Mr Manhattan Mr Manhattan says:

    Ted didn’t get off that easy. As the cocktail recipe editor for Left Coast Libations, I asked Ted to double check the recipe posted here with David (that 1/3 oz. measure was bugging me) and got a rather different recipe back in return:

    1 1/2 oz. Ransom Old Tom gin
    3/4 oz. Dolin Blanc
    1 tsp. St. Germain elderflower liqueur
    10 drops TBT Celery bitters (1 – 2 dashes, I’d say)

    Hmmm? Maybe David meant to name the cocktail Apocryphal?


  7. Jay Jay says:

    Michael – Thanks for the definitive recipe. I was using the recipe Chuck and Paul posted which calls for 1oz Dolin and 2 tea spoons St. German (which is 10ml, which is ~1/3oz). Will have to try both recipes and see which I prefer!

  8. Mike S. Mike S. says:

    The Ephemeral is really very good — and it works just fine with Hayman’s Old Tom (the only one I have at the moment). Can’t wait to try Ransom.

  9. Kyle Kyle says:

    Just want to correct one point in your post; Ransom Old Tom is available outside of Oregon, I’ve seen it in several stores (and purchased a bottle for myself) in Chicago.

  10. John Scott Tynes John Scott Tynes says:

    Sadly neglecting your celery bitters? Don’t! I think they’re lovely in a dry martini, where the grassy celery flavor goes wonderfully well with the botanicals in the vermouth and the gin. That’s where my celery bitters go, and often.

  11. Sunny&Rummy Sunny&Rummy says:

    Great to hear Ransom has shown up in Chicago, as I’m possibly making an overdue homecoming visit this coming month. Hopefully Binny’s will have some on hand.

    As yet, I can’t even get Hayman’s in the Florida backwoods, although next week it is finally supposed to show up along with the Dolin vermouths and lots of other goodies from the Haus Alpenz portfolio.

  12. Gary Gary says:

    OK–but which is better or, more accurately perhaps, which Old Tom do YOU like better: Ransom or Hayman’s 9these are the two I can find locally).

    Please advise!

  13. Ken Ken says:

    I was exposed to Ransom just tonight at Heaven’s Dog in San Francisco — eight floors above which I am lucky enough to live. Dion was tending bar, and when my eyes lit upon a bottle of Cynar on the shelf, I wondered what drink he could come up with that would include it. He mixed for me a Negroni variation swapping Cynar for the Campari and using Ransom for the gin. Now I’m a big fan of Negroni’s to begin with — it’s my most common “go-to” drink when I’m not sure what else to make for myself — but this variation had outstanding depth and unusual spiciness from the cardamon character of the Ransom. I’ll be buying a bottle, if for no other reason so I can mix these myself. I should really have taken better notes (or any notes, for that matter), but I think Dion said that he mixed 1 1/2 oz Ransom, 3/4 oz Carpano Antica, and 1/2 oz Cynar. A flamed orange peel makes a welcome addition, as always.

  14. Columbine Quillen Columbine Quillen says:

    Love the post, I’m a huge fan of Ransom’s Old Tom Gin. Now to get my hands on the other Old Tom gins.

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